What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Some people infected with the virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include fever, body ache, dry cough, fatigue, chills, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, and loss of smell. In some people, COVID-19 causes more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.
People with COVID-19 can also experience neurological symptoms, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, or both. These may occur with or without respiratory symptoms.
For example, COVID-19 affects brain function in some people. Specific neurological symptoms seen in people with COVID-19 include loss of smell, inability to taste, muscle weakness, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, dizziness, confusion, delirium, seizures, and stroke.
In addition, some people have gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain or discomfort associated with COVID-19.
How do I know if I have COVID-19, the flu, or just a cold?
Now that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is the dominant strain, telling the difference is more challenging than ever. Even if you have been vaccinated and boosted, you can still get symptoms, but they are likely to be mild to moderate in severity. For those not vaccinated, the risk of severe symptoms that can be life-threatening is still substantial.
At the current time, people with "flulike" symptoms should assume they have COVID. If possible, arrange to get tested or do a home test.
If the test is positive, you should isolate at home for five days.
If you had a negative test when symptoms started, it’s still best to isolate at home for two to three more days, to monitor your symptoms and prevent spreading infection. That’s because there is a chance of false negatives with antigen tests, which means you can still have COVID with a negative test. Consider testing again before going out. Once you are ready to leave home, continue to consistently wear a mask for at least five more days.
Don't leave home while you're still contagious
A person with COVID-19 is thought to be most contagious in the days immediately leading up to symptom onset (aka, the presymptomatic period) and throughout the first several days of his or her symptoms. But, it can take several more days for a person's immune system to actually clear the virus from the body.
Drugs suggested by CDC
The CDC suggests the following as part of an overall treatment plan to manage your symptoms at home.
Pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can relieve minor aches and pains. Cough suppressants or expectorants may also be recommended, but it’s best to get specific advice from your healthcare provider.
If you are having symptoms of dyspnea (difficulty breathing), schedule an appointment with your doctor. They may recommend that you lie prone, or face down, rather than flat on your back.
Short of Breath
If being short of breath makes you anxious, your doctor may advise breathing exercises that can help. UC San Diego Health created a short video that details how to perform a simple breathing technique to help with COVID-19-related stress.
For help managing a cough, try cough drops, Vicks VapoRub, and hot water or hot tea with lemon.
To reduce the risk of becoming dehydrated, drink fluids regularly and keep eating. Aim for about 64 to 70 ounces of water every day. If you are sweating a lot from a fever, you may want to supplement water with an electrolyte-containing sports drink, such as Gatorade, according to Geisinger Health System.
To make eating easier, opt for foods that are easy to digest and relatively bland such as chicken noodle or vegetable broth soup, avocados, or toast. While loss of taste and smell can make food unappetizing, good nutrition will aid your recovery.
A study published in July 2021 in Food Science & Nutrition found that in mild or moderate infections, staying physically active, sleeping seven hours per day or more, drinking 2 liters or more of water per day, and consuming more plant-based proteins “can provide a significant role in early and safe recovery from COVID-19.”
About half of COVID-19 patients experience anosmia, which also affects their ability to taste food. But most people return to normal after two or three weeks. However, about 10% of them may persist for several months.
How can I prevent Covid-19
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases. They include:
Wash your hands often with plain soap and water. The CDC recommends washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Follow CDC guidance on large gatherings, social distancing and mask wearing, based on if you are fully vaccinated or not.